DFW Airport

Delta 191: 36 Years Ago Today

Fiery crash of a jumbo jet at DFW International Airport changes aviation, meteorology forever

delta 191 crash
NBC 5 News

Monday marks 36 years since Delta 191 crashed on the north side of Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, killing 137 people and changing aviation and meteorology forever.

As Flight 191 was on final approach during a sudden summer storm, high winds hit the Lockheed L-1011 aircraft and pushed it into the ground well short of the runway.

Those who investigated the crash would later learn the plane had been struck by a microburst, a sudden rush of air pushing toward the ground spreads out in all directions after hitting the surface. That disruption forced the pilot off course and to lose control of the plane.

The aircraft first sped up and then was slowed down by wind shear. As it veered off course, the aircraft clipped a car on State Highway 114, killing a driver, before bouncing into a water tank and exploding on the north side of the airport.

Moments before landing on a stormy day in 1985, high winds hit Delta 191 and the pilots lose control of the plane. The fiery crash kills 137 people and creates an urgent need for changes to keep passengers safe.

When the plane struck the storage tanks it sent millions of gallons of water into the field. In some places, firefighters and rescuers found themselves wading through neck-high water that was full of debris and burning jet fuel.

As rescuers and other first responders arrived on the scene, not only were they dealing with the aftermath of a fiery jumbo jet crash, they were then hit with rain and wind gusts of 80mph from the summer storm.

The crash, which killed 137 people and injured 26 others, drew attention to ways to better detect wind shear and other weather phenomena and brought about many improvements to emergency response vehicles and rescue techniques.

To learn more about the crash and how weather played a role, check out Episode 8 of NBC 5's Inside the Storm: Disaster at DFW Airport above.

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